New PC Laptop - Nearly Four Years Later

I purchased a Lenovo Y580 laptop three years, ten months ago. I blogged about that experience, and talked about its specs, particularly compared to the MacBook Pro of the time. I was able to put together a relatively powerful laptop for less than $1400 (Canadian). Of course, that was back when the Canadian dollar was pretty much at par with the US dollar.

I started to feel the "upgrade bug" this year, and had a pretty good feeling some technological features would come together to make it a good time to purchase my next computer. The Lenovo Y580 was my first gaming laptop, and it really was a (mostly) good experience, so I'm sticking with a laptop again this time around.

After looking at several models, I found the Asus GL702VM. This laptop ships in two versions; one with a 256GB SSD for $1599 US and another with just the 1TB hard drive for $1399US. You can pick up a 256GB SSD for much less than $200, so the cheaper model is a wiser choice. With an SSD added, the GL702VM is a higher price than the Y580 was 4 years ago (as I had it configured), but only slightly. Unfortunately, the Canadian dollar is only worth about 75 cents US, so in Canadian dollars there is a pretty large difference.

So, how big of a difference is there between these two mid-range laptops launched nearly four years apart? Well, there are a few noticeable technological improvements, and there are some surprisingly similar details that really highlight how technological advancements have started to slow to a crawl.


The processor in the Y580 is an Intel Core i7 3630QM. This is the third generation 2.4GHz quad-core, eight-thread Intel Core i processor. The GL702VM has a sixth generation Core i7 6700HQ, a 2.6GHz quad-core, eight-thread processor. PC Perspective ran comprehensive benchmarks comparing Intel Core processors from the second generation through the sixth. The improvements from the 3rd- to 6th-gen Core i7 processor range from 5% to 50%, but most falling around the 15% to 20% range. This assumes that the processors are running at the same speed, but the i7 6700HQ has a 200MHz advantage.

However, these improvements need to be put into context. The improvements PC Perspective saw in games was exaggerated by using a dual-video card setup that is not only known to be CPU intensive, but also more expensive than most gamers can afford. Some of the benchmarks are referred to as "synthetic" because they are directly measuring CPU performance and aren't actual programs that a user would run.

So, the real question is, does the new laptop "feel faster" in the day-to-day applications that I run? In short, no. I imagine I could get figures accurate to a fraction of a second, but I ran various tests simultaneously between the two laptops and then just observed how long a task would take. To try to make it a "fair fight", I reformatted the Y580 with a fresh install of Windows 10. Start up, shut down and rebooting times were virtually identical. Most programs launched slightly faster on the new Asus laptop, but generally this would mean less than two seconds difference. Application loading aside, the new laptop doesn't actually feel any faster for general use. There were some instances where the new laptop performed quite a bit better, but I am certain that it had little to do with the processor. I'll touch on those later.


From the start, I had configured the Y580 with 16GB of RAM running in dual channel (two 8GB memory modules). Although 8GB of RAM is normally sufficient for most users, I like to run virtual machines on my computer, so more RAM is definitely better. What about the GL702VM? It has one 16GB RAM module. Of course there has been a transition to a newer type of memory (DDR3 to DDR4), but there are few applications that benefit from slightly faster memory in any significant way. In fact, the total memory bandwidth will probably be slightly lower on the new laptop since the new DDR4 memory is only running in single channel compared to the dual channel configuration of the DDR3 memory.

So, after nearly four years, I have the exact same amount of RAM in my new laptop.


Solid state drives (SSDs) have been rapidly gaining in popularity over the last several years. Even in 2012, I knew that any system (laptop or otherwise) that I would get would have to have an SSD. For years, traditional hard drives were the primary storage device in computers. As processors, RAM, graphics chips, and virtually every other component in a computer were getting significantly faster every year, hard drives were only getting incrementally faster. Hard drives have a way of making even the most powerful computer slow to a crawl, especially while starting up or launching an application.

So, when I ordered the Y580 I added in a 256GB SSD. That SSD is still working great today and uses an interface known as SATA (mSATA, SATA III to be precise). When ordering the GL702VM, I managed to get a really good pre-order price on the model with the 256GB SSD. Despite Asus' own product page bragging about the new, faster NVMe SSD interface, the SSD they pre-install is still based on SATA. Although it uses the same interface as the older SSD, the new SSD is definitely faster. When dealing with large programs, such as games, the new laptop would finish loading noticeably sooner. As an example, the graphics benchmark Unigine Valley finished loading roughly 8 seconds faster on the GL702VM.

While SSD's are fast, they are quite a bit more expensive than traditional hard drives. If you want to store lots of files (pictures, videos, etc), you are probably going to still need a hard drive. The Y580 came with a 1TB 5400rpm hard drive. The GL702VM ships with a 1TB 7200rpm hard drive, so it is technically faster, but it makes little difference in how fast the laptop feels.

One other noticeable difference between the two laptops is something that the new laptop lacks; optical storage. The Y580 included a Blu-ray reader. The lack of an optical drive in a new laptop is hardly a surprise today. I tend to be more surprised by how many laptops still include one. There is an advantage to not having an optical drive as well; it helps keep the weight and size of the laptop down. This new, more powerful laptop is actually slightly lighter than the old one (2.7 kg vs 2.8 kg), and is quite a bit thinner (24mm vs 36mm).

Again, like with the RAM, I am getting a laptop with the exact same amount of storage, and drives that are only slightly faster than I have been using for nearly four years.

GPU (Graphics Chip)

Right off the bat I will say that this is one area where the new laptop has definitely improved in a huge way. The new GTX 1060 graphics processing unit (GPU) has over three times as many graphics "cores" that are two generations newer than the GTX 660m found in my old laptop. Those cores in the GTX 1060 also run at clock speeds nearly double those found in the GTX 660m. There is three times as much graphics memory on the GTX 1060 (6GB vs 2GB), and that memory has three times as much bandwidth as the GTX 660m (192GB/s vs 64GB/s). When it comes to graphics intensive applications, like games, there is no comparison between the new and old laptops.

The GL702VM is able to play any modern game with relative ease. The Y580 can play those same games, but many graphical details must be scaled back and/or the game must be run at a lower resolution. Finally, this is one area where four years has made a huge difference.


I have to admit that I didn't need a new laptop; not really anyway. The Y580 was only starting to show its age when it came to the latest video games with high-end system requirements. I could have still played those games; they just wouldn't have looked as good. There is one reason that I needed to replace my laptop. At 45 years old, I have started to notice that a 15.6 inch 1080 display is getting to be just a little too small. This time I went a little bigger; the GL702VM has a 17.3 inch 1080 display.

Remarkably, the new laptop is barely larger than the 15.6" Y580. The bezels around the display are actually quite small. The GL702VM is only about 30mm wider, and 25mm deeper than the Y580.

Other than the size advantage, the new display is capable of refreshing at up to 75Hz. Many laptops (including the Y580) have a refresh rate of 60Hz. I say "up to 75Hz" because the new laptop includes a technology called G-Sync. This is an important technology for gaming. There are much better descriptions of G-Sync out there, but in short it lets the laptop refresh the display when a new full frame is ready rather than at a fixed rate. With fixed refresh rates, games suffer from one of two issues (the user chooses which). You can either tell the graphics chip to draw the frames whenever they're ready, or tell it to synchronize fully drawn frames with the refresh rate. The former leads to an issue known as tearing; the top portion of the screen has part of one frame, while the bottom of the screen is showing part of the following frame. The latter choice causes stutter; the graphics chip may not be finished drawing a full screen when the display is ready, so it waits for the next refresh cycle.

The new display uses an IPS panel compared to the old laptop's TN panel. IPS panels have much better colours and brightness, and wider viewing angles.

Other New/Cool Stuff

Although there are some aspects of the new laptop that fail to impress when compared to my old laptop, there are definitely some cool technologies that I am excited about.

The first is the Thunderbolt 3 port. This port uses a USB Type-C connector (which is becoming more common every month), but is quite a bit faster than a regular USB 3.1 port (40Gbps vs 10Gbps). One of the most exciting Thunderbolt 3 accessories is an external GPU dock. This makes it possible to add a full desktop graphics card to the laptop down the road. Hopefully the new laptop is as good to me as the Y580, and it should last me even longer than 4 years.

Another technology that is "under the hood" is the ability to use an NVMe SSD. NVMe SSDs are quite a bit faster than (the already fast) SATA-based SSDs. Again, this is a technology that should help keep this laptop feeling quick for several years.

One final reason to get excited about the GL702VM is that it is VR capable and meets the requirements of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift VR headsets. Of course, these headsets are quite expensive right now, but at least I know the laptop will be able to handle VR.

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